It is difficult to venture to Inverness and its environs without taking a peek at Loch Ness, just in case the old girl decides to make a long overdue appearance.
The legend of the Loch Ness Monster has thrived since the 1930s and plays a huge part in the tourist industry of the city and surrounding countryside. Those looking to pursue a hunt for the infamous monster should head to the location of one of the first sightings, River Ness, where Ness Castle Lodges can also be found. Completed in 2011 and comprising four lodges of varying sizes, an original cottage and bothy all of which sit on the estate of Ness Castle, this is a tranquil escape that is conveniently only a short drive from Inverness city centre.
Owner and local property developer David Sutherland has transformed the estate to include Ghillie’s Lodge, Benula Lodge, River Lodge, Red Squirrel Lodge and the original Weir Cottage and bothy in a venture that was influenced by a vacation to Colorado. Large parties of up to 14 can stay in River Lodge. The main focal point of this eye-catching building is a large, open-plan lounge with a double cathedral-height ceiling, fireplace and a picture window overlooking the river. Guests can take advantage of the facilities at the newly refurbished bothy, including a hot tub and steam room. And don’t worry about cooking if you don’t feel like it; a local chef will prepare meals and snacks for the party. Avid fisherman will also appreciate the bothy’s wet room and location – just a stone’s throw from the river.
Smaller parties of up to seven can stay in Benula Lodge or Ghillie’s Lodge.The interior of each space is a modern interpretation of the traditional Scottish hunting lodge and although tartan and tweed do make an appearance in the scheme, the overall look and feel is definitely more contemporary, making this less a twee retreat and more of a boutique destination.
Red Squirrel Lodge sits on the site of the old ghillie’s cottage and is the smallest of the lodges, sleeps up to four and is the most recently refurbished. Interior designer Alan Mackenzie of Mackenzie’s of Wick says; “I wanted the lodge to be timeless, individual and to have a hideaway Scottish feel. My family have been doing interiors for more than 100 years and my grandmother, Mrs Mack, had great taste. I used her as an inspiration; everything she did was different but homely and made you feel like you belonged there.”
The lodge is ideal for a family or romantic getaway with its contemporary hunting lodge look, carved deer heads and motifs, light hardwood flooring and faux fur snug throws throughout. Guests can kick off their shoes and relax with a good book in the cosy living room. “As the living area is the real heart of the lodge I wanted it to be a place you could linger. I take several months to build up individual items for any work I do and I started off in this area with a William Yeoward fabric which helped direct the colour palette. As well as looking good the fabrics have to be durable. There is a real difference when you create an intimate home and a commercial enterprise that has to feel like a home from home. Unsurprisingly Red Squirrel is one of the places I hear people saying they didn’t wanted to leave…it would be easy to nest there,” says Alan.
The mock croc leather sofa, upholstered love seat, quirky wallpaper and adjustable mood lighting as well as the wood burning stove with well-stocked log pile add to the homely feel. Indeed at this time of the year it is hard to imagine a warmer or more inviting place to take refuge from the winter chill, but the lodge is also well equipped for summer visitors too with a large decking area featuring wicker patio furniture, and a barbecue, not to mention the ever changing views.
After a day’s fishing, walking, exploring or some retail therapy in Inverness, guests can retire to the two double en suite bedrooms. Furnished to the same high standard as the rest of the lodge and in warm earthy tones, the large tartan-covered headboards make a feature of the king-sized beds. The hand waxed furniture includes a dressing table with mirror and two bedside tables well stocked with reading material. Both en suites are modern masterpieces with lovely Penhaligon’s goodies, White Company towels and an impressive bath and large rain shower in the larger and smaller respectively.
The Ashley Ann kitchen is both contemporary and functional and if you decide to cook, you’ll find plenty of essentials in the cupboards and pretty Tain pottery to serve on. The dining area is in easy reach of the kitchen and comfortably seats four.
Mackenzie’s have undoubtedly delivered on the brief to create luxurious interiors that are a bit different, very usable and somewhere that guests want to return to. “The lodges feel right because of the consistent emphasis on comfort, warmth and casual intimacy. It’s easy to visualise people cooking up a great roast dinner with a fire roaring in the background and a feeling inside that they’ve arrived at somewhere very special in the heart of the Highlands,” Alan enthuses, and it is hard to disagree.
For more information and for rates tel: 07713 167810, or visit www.nesscastlelodges.co.uk; Mackenzies of Wick, tel: 01955 603 110.